My best friend drove over five hours to see me one spring afternoon. I had just had my third child and she wanted to meet him, but also knew I really wanted some time with just her. I had been nursing, changing diapers and chasing around my two toddlers for so long I forgot what it was like to carry on an uninterrupted conversation and wear real pants. And I had missed her so very much.
As soon as she got here, I kissed my kiddos and we were out the door. We had plans to get dinner, go see a psychic and then head to the nearest Walmart to load up on crafting supplies for the next day.
After a very interesting psychic reading, we walked into the store and grabbed some caffeine before heading off to the craft department to fill up our cart. Just as we started our mission, we spotted two teenage boys running in the opposite direction. They kept looking behind them and were weaving in and out of the candy aisles at the end of the registers. I honestly figured they had been dangerously close to getting caught shoplifting and were trying to hide.
As soon as I turned my head forward again, a whole flood of people were racing towards me and I distinctly remember a woman with black hair in a blue vest with a walkie- talkie in her right hand screaming for everyone to get to the nearest exit.
She was still, though. I will never forget that.
She wasn't running, she was so consumed with making sure everyone else got out, her feet stayed firmly planted on the gray, dingy tile.
Just as my friend and I grabbed each other and started running, I heard him—the man whose voice will forever be burned in my brain. He was screaming, alerting everyone he was going to shoot and was waving a gun around while another was shoved down the front of his pants. His mouth felt like it was one inch behind my left ear. No matter how fast I ran, I couldn't get away from him. I could feel him. I could smell him. I felt like he was in me, weighing me down.
It changed the way I parent, it changed how I feel in crowds, it changed how I feel about myself.
We were only a few yards from the door but it was taking forever to get out. My legs were heavy but I couldn't feel them. They were stiff but felt like jelly and were struggling to keep me up.
I wasn't like the employee who was standing there making sure everyone got our safely. All I could think about were my three kids and how horrible I was for leaving them. In that moment I never wanted to set foot outside my home again. I never wanted them out of my sight.
We made it to the parking lot but because we were both in complete shock, we had no idea where we had parked our car. And all at once, you started hearing car alarms go off like crazy because no one knew where the hell their vehicle was.
No one was hurt that night. The gunman had two guns, neither one of which were loaded. His daughter called Walmart right away after he called her and said, "He was going in with a gun to have some fun," and the cops were there within seconds.
We were all lucky. People go through horrible tragedy and this situation can not compare to what some have had to endure. It was pretty minor when you think about what could have happened, but still, it has changed me.
It changed the way I parent, it changed how I feel in crowds and it changed how I feel about myself. It was a reminder of just how strong and brave people can be.
I will never forget about that woman in her blue vest who later said, "I was just doing my job."
I will never forget the man's voice screaming in my ear.
And I will never forget the tremendous love and weight I felt while trying to get to my babies.
When I think back to those haunting moments they remind me there is nothing stronger than the love and natural tendencies of a mother. We would walk through fire for our children no matter our experiences or situation—it's just what moms do.